Winter Wonderland

Tuesday, 03 December 2013

There’s no denying it, winter is just round the corner. The frosty mornings, the winter woollies and the sound of Wizzard emanating from every shopping centre and radio station heralds the winter season. But for us gardeners it needn’t mean bare earth and a dull garden. Here are some of our top tips to make sure your garden is still beautiful to look at throughout the winter season, is packed full of winter interest and is truly a Winter Wonderland (even if it does mean looking at it from indoors with a nice mug of tea a lot of the time!)

A fennel seed head in a Winter Wonderland

A fennel seed head provides winter interest

Evergreen plants

There are a whole host of evergreen plants which can provide structure and winter interest in your garden. Some favourites include buxus sempervirens, viburnum, camellia, skimmia, hebe, phormium and rhododendron. Also, grasses are a must for us in gardens. They look great all the year round but we particularly love them when they are frost covered. Our favourites include molinia, stipa tenuissima, deschampsia, libertia and carex buchananii.

Grasses look wonderful covered in frost

Grasses look wonderful covered in frost

Seed heads

Just because your summer flowering perennials have lost their colour, it doesn’t mean all is lost. Many of the plants in a herbaceous border provide wonderful winter interest through their seed heads. Stars in the winter border include foeniculum (fennel), verbena bonariensis, angelica, echinops, allium, eryngium, sedum and hydrangea to name but a few.

Echinops, still looking wonderful in winter

Echinops, still looking wonderful in winter

Interesting branches

Some shrubs come into their own in winter. A plant such as corylus contorta (the contorted hazel) is a nice shrub to add form and texture to the garden in summer and the catkins are attractive in spring. But for us this shrub comes into its own in winter when you can see its wonderful contorted branches. Other shrubs which look wonderful in winter include prunus incisa ‘Kojo-no-mai’ and who could ignore cornus stolonifera – the wonderful bright red branches of the dogwood.


All trees provide a wonderful structure and height in the garden and will add interest in the winter. Some have wonderful bark which will provide additional interest – ones to consider are prunus serrula, acer griseum and betula utilis jacquemontii. All suitable for small gardens and will provide interest all year round.

Trees provide structure in winter as well as somewhere to hang fairy lights!

Trees provide structure in winter as well as somewhere to hang fairy lights!


Berries are like beautiful gems glowing in a winter garden. While flowers often take a back seat it is time for berries to take centre stage. From skimmia and pyrancathus to ilex (holly) and viburnum there are a plenty of lovely shrubs to choose from. And your feathered friends will be happy too. Remember to plant both male and female holly plants and most skimmias to ensure you get berries.

Winter flowering plants

Some plants flower over winter and are great additions to the garden. These include helleborus, hamamelis, mahonia, cornus ‘Golden Glory’ and viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’.

The contorted hazel provides a magical feel to a winter garden

The contorted hazel provides a magical feel to a winter garden

Other interest

Of course gardens aren’t just about plants. A well designed garden will have structure and form which will make it still look beautiful even when your summer perennials have passed their best. Interesting hard landscaping, seating areas, focal points, water features, lighting, outdoor rooms and many more features can be incorporated into your garden to ensure it is interesting all the year round. To read about some of the many focal points you can include in your garden read some of our previous blogs on focal points:

Focal points – Part 1

Focal points – Part 2

Feature fences and sculpture can provide important focal points in winter

Feature fences and sculpture can provide important focal points in winter

If you need some help or advice on creating your own Winter Wonderland in your garden please get in touch. Or if you want to utilise the winter to get in touch to discuss a design for next year it is the perfect time to get in touch and start the ball rolling.

In the meantime, wrap up warm and have a wonderful festive season.

All at Vialii

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